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If at first you don’t succeed: Layton woman realizes dream of becoming RN

By Ryan Aston - | Mar 11, 2024

Photo supplied, Beth Martin

Beth Martin of Layton completed a 20-year journey toward becoming a registered nurse in February 2024.

LAYTON — Beth Martin knows a thing or two about perseverance. Despite challenges presented by her dyslexia and ADHD, the Layton resident pushed forward with her dream of becoming a registered nurse, finally completing the task in February.

It was a moment 20 years in the making for the 55-year-old mother of four.

“I’m going to have a great big fire and I’m going to burn my medical books,” she joked during an interview with the Standard-Examiner. “When we go camping, this will be our paper to put in the fireplace or the fire pit.”

Martin began on this path in 2004 when, as a stay-at-home mom, she had an epiphany that nursing — and the opportunity the profession provided for helping others — was something she wanted to be a part of.

From there, she got her CNA certification and started working at long-term care facilities to get the experience she needed for a hospital job. Eventually, she landed a position as a critical care tech at LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City.

However, becoming an RN remained the primary goal, and accomplishing the goal required the traversal of a long and winding road.

She had started classwork at Weber State University, but finances were an issue. Later, she attended Fortis College, and then Eagle Gate and Nightingale colleges after that; moves that were necessitated when the accommodation of her educational needs amid ADHD and dyslexia diagnoses wasn’t what it needed to be.

“Something that you could read once, I would have to read three times to understand it,” Martin said. “And then, imagine a comic strip and the little thought bubbles over their head. I would have like 10 of those with the ADHD. ‘OK, you’ve got to do laundry. You’ve got to do this. You’ve got to do that.'”

There also were the pressures of being a wife and mother, and working full time, alongside attending class and doing homework.

“There were times that we did not even see each other,” Martin said of herself and her husband. “The kids — I would study one or two, three hours a day. And after dinner, if they had homework, they would sit by me and they would do their homework. And I would be online studying.”

All told, Martin went through five years of schooling — costing tens of thousands of dollars — and lost many hours with her family to complete the requisite coursework. Alas, there was a final hurdle that may have stopped others in her position in their tracks.

In order to get her RN license, Martin had to pass the NCLEX-RN exam — a test designed to evaluate the competency of nursing school graduates.

Across several attempts, she failed as her ADHD, dyslexia, general testing anxiety and the great disconnect between the exam’s reality and what she had experienced firsthand in her years as a care provider seemingly got the best of her.

Martin’s husband, Rich, who eventually got into nursing himself and was even one of her professors for a time at Fortis, shared in her pain every step of the way.

“That was so heart-wrenching for me to see, where she put so much into it,” he told the Standard-Examiner.

Her many ill-fated attempts at passing the test over the years notwithstanding — the Martins joke that they stopped counting at 10 — Beth had the tools and the know-how to do exactly the thing she had set out to do but was being prevented from crossing that final threshold.

“I’ve got my master’s degree in nursing and she runs circles around me when it comes to clinical operation,” Rich added. “She knows anatomy and physiology. … She knows what to do, what interventions to utilize in every situation.”

In November 2022, Beth moved one step closer to her goal, passing the test to become an LPN. However, she was told by the Utah Department of Professional Licensing that she had to pass the RN test within five years of having finished school, or she would be forced to redo her coursework before testing again.

Despite having settled into a job at Salt Lake Behavioral Health Hospital, she decided to make one last push to fully realize her dream. And that’s when everything came together.

When Martin received her authorization to test documentation, she had been given a full year to pass her test, and she made the most of it. She studied her medical textbooks, subscribed to myriad YouTube channels and filled her phone with apps to help her prepare for the exam.

“If I was in a line somewhere, at the grocery store, I was doing questions,” she said.

Then she finished the job.

“I went outside and I screamed at the top of my lungs,” she said of the moment she discovered she had passed her exam.

In a Facebook post celebrating the accomplishment, Rich referred to his wife as his “hero.” Meanwhile, Beth just wants to be a good example for the next generation of her family.

“I wasn’t just doing it for me,” she said. “I was doing it for my children and I was doing it for (her granddaughter), because I want her to know that if she has a dream, it’s possible.”

And while she’s excited about how her career might unfold now that she’s an RN, she’s also amped to make up for some lost time.

“It’s a celebration now because I don’t have to the study. … I get to watch stuff on Netflix now. I get to watch programs with my husband,” she said. “As I was working on the test and the NCLEX and studying, I had to make time for him. But now I have plenty of time.”


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